Thursday, February 08, 2007
how NOT to teach about tefillin
My son’s class is learning the halachos of tefillin from kitzur shulchan aruch, which is the text of choice for most elementary schools despite its shortcomings (a different discussion completely). The choice of topic was clearly made with the intent to educate the boys, many of whom will become bar mitzvah over the next few months, about tefillin. This is the mitzvah which most symbolizes the separation of the “men from the boys”. I hate to be so constantly critical of my son’s school, but at times I honestly have no idea what they could be thinking. My son just got his tefillin and will soon start wearing them, but had no clue what to do with them – when to say the brachos, how exactly to position them, etc. So I asked him whether or not his Rebbe had brought in a pair of tefillin to show the boys what to do. Answer: No. I hit the floor, ceiling, and a few walls. True, I admit to learning hilchos shechita without ever killing a cow, but odds are I will never have to perform that task, and a cow is a bit more inaccessible than a pair of tefillin that a boy will wear every day! I know some stuff I have written about ed aims for ideals, but this is not about creative teaching or radical classroom ideas – it’s about basics. If a Rebbe sits in front of a classroom and drones for hours about hilchos tefillin and a boy doesn’t know what to do with a pair once he gets them in hand, then the teacher is simply not doing his job – sorry, no softer way to put it. Is it really that hard to figure out that to teach hilchos tefillin it might be a good idea to show the boys a pair of tefillin and demonstrate step by step how to put them on? Or to even go a step further and maybe call in one of the many sofrim who live in the area to do a presentation on tefillin and show the batim, the parshiyos, how tefillin are put together, etc.? Come on people in chinuch, this is no brainer stuff!